Cooking for a Cause

by Chad Flowers

 Mar 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

Executive Chef James “JP” Patterson sharpens his skills and finds inspiration by giving back.

If you're active on social media and follow McConnell Golf accounts, there’s a good chance you know — or at least know of — James “JP” Patterson, executive chef at Sedgefield Country Club and corporate executive chef for McConnell Golf. Whether he is touting his daughter’s Girl Scout cookies on Facebook or posting a close-up photo of an extraordinary dish on Instagram, JP educates and inspires online.

Through social media, JP’s followers also see many dishes that come out of other area kitchens. No, he isn’t cooking for a restaurant on the side; he’s very active in charitable  cooking competitions and exhibitions across the state. These fundraisers bring much-needed dollarsto some great charities, put his skills to the test, and help JP spread the McConnell Golf name across the area.

While JP and other country club chefs have the opportunity to be creative in their own kitchens when writing new menus and planning specialized member events, an on-the-fly cooking competition provides an exciting platform to spread their wings.

“Outside of the charitable impact of these events, one of the greatest aspects is the opportunity to step outside of our comfort zone and get the creative juices flowing,” says JP. “With many of the ingredients being event-day surprises, we really have to focus on what we want to do and commit to it. From the items used, to the preparation and plating, there are a lot of variables to navigate in a very short period of time. It’s very exciting.”

In addition to the funds raised for worthy causes and his continued personal and professional development, JP enjoys meeting other local and regional chefs and helping expand their exposure in the area.

“Oftentimes, country club chefs are hidden away in their clubs, simply because they cook at member-only facilities. Whereas a chef at a popular local restaurant, for example, the opportunity to cook for new people night in and  night out. Sometimes we as country club chefs can get bogged down in our routines. I love our members and I enjoy cooking their favorites, but it helps me to be at my best to think outside of the box every now and then. I enjoy bringing those experiences back and implementing them at Sedgefield and most importantly I think our members benefit also.”

While JP has impressively flexed his culinary muscle in past events, winning some or finishing near the top in others, perhaps the one he was most excited about was the Chef’s Showcase — a kick-off event for the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington in January. JP is originally from Wilmington, where he got his start in the culinary arts business.

“I have not really had an opportunity to cook in Wilmington since I left in 2001, so it was great to see so many familiar faces and to have my Mom and other family members and friends attend. It was just a great experience. I cannot wait to hopefully be invited back in the future.”

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Stenson’s Road to Victory

by Brad King

 Aug 14, 2018 at 7:45 PM

Henrik Stenson lives up to his billing and captures the 2017 Wyndham Championship. His victory is another notch for the stoic Swede, whose career has seen both highs and lows.

Henrik Stenson entered last summer's Wyndham Championship as the prohibitive favorite. The strapping Swede, known for his pure ball-striking and savage sense of humor, arrived at Sedgefield Country Club ranked No. 9 in the world, making him the highest-rated player in the 2017 field. The Wyndham is now the final PGA Tour stop before the FedExCup Playoffs, meaning it’s a must-play for those looking to earn points to either qualify for, or improve their standing, entering the Playoffs.

However, without the lure of gaining Ryder Cup points, many of the world’s best took the week off in 2017. So Stenson — the 2016 British Open champion, Olympic silver medalist, and 2013 FedExCup champion — was the man to beat at Sedgefield.

He lived up to his billing early in the week, first joining forces with the McConnell Golf team to capture the Wednesday Pro-Am, then followed by an opening-round 62 that left him one shot off the lead.

Eventually, however, the 41-year-old would need a Sunday back-nine birdie barrage to fire a 6-under 64 and eke out a one-stroke victory over PGA Tour rookie Ollie Schniederjans. A 24-year-old, former three-time All-American at Georgia Tech, Schniederjans rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole in Sunday’s final round.

Then, he nearly holed out for an eagle from 163 yards at the par-4 18th. The solo second was the best finish of his career and fifth inside the top 10. “I had to keep on making birdies,” said Stenson. “Ollie was surely not backing down. I thought I had a two-shot cushion. As I walked over to the 18th hole and looked around ... ‘Oh, OK, Schniederjans birdied it as well. So, I better scramble a par here to get the win."

With Schniederjans watching the TV broadcast and hoping for a tie, Stenson missed a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 18 just right of the cup, before calmly draining a 3-footer to clinch his first victory since his historic 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon — where Stenson outgunned Phil Mickelson for his first major in a final-round showdown for the ages. “When I stuffed it on No. 18, I thought that’s probably going to be a playoff,” said Schniederjans. “Stenson birdied 17 and got par on 18. Hats off to him — he had a great finish, too. Just one short.”

Low scores and tight leaderboards once again were the norm at Sedgefield. With seven holes left for the final pairing, a quartet of players — Stenson, Schniederjans, Ryan Armour, and Kevin Na — shared the lead at 18 under.

“It was anyone’s tournament on the back nine,” said Stenson, who had four birdies in a five-hole stretch of the back nine on both Saturday and Sunday.

Finishing in solo third was former Wake Forest star Webb Simpson, who carded a three-under 67 to finish at 18-under 262. The Charlotte resident and 2012 U.S. Open champion, who claimed his first PGA Tour title at the 2011 Wyndham Championship, recorded his fourth career top-6 Wyndham result.

Meanwhile, 2015 Wyndham champ Davis Love III — who at 53 years old was seeking to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history — finished eight shots back in a tie for 10th.

Stenson left his Callaway Epic driver in his locker all week and he certainly didn’t need it on the par-70 Sedgefield course. After battling injuries early in the season, Stenson managed to set a Wyndham tournament record — finishing at 22-under 258 to break the Ross course’s 72-hole record set by Carl Pettersson in 2008 and matched in 2017 by Si Woo Kim. In addition, with the victory Stenson not only earned $1,044,000 and 500 FedExCup points, his sixth career Tour victory also made him Sweden’s winningest man of all-time, distancing himself from Pettersson and Jesper Parnevik, who each captured five PGA Tour titles.

Ironically, Stenson wasn’t even supposed to be in Greensboro. The tournament was a late addition because Stenson needed to reach 15 starts on the PGA Tour to keep his card for the new season.

“It’s a bit of a tough stretch to play five in a row, but I wanted to secure my 15 and hopefully pick up some momentum and surely I did,” he said. “It’s funny how it goes. Sometimes it’s just a coincidence why you decide to go to a tournament and make a change in your schedule, and this time it certainly worked out for a lot of good. This is a great tournament. We’ve been looked after very, very well. They do a lot for the fans and for the players this week.”

Ups and Downs

Stenson made his first major stamp on the game in 2013, when he completed a remarkable feat by winning the FedEx-Cup in America as well as the Road to Dubai, the European Tour equivalent. But things haven’t always run so smoothly for the stoic Swede.

A natural lefty who didn’t start playing golf until he was 12, Stenson turned pro in 1998 and found some early success on the European Tour. But at the 2001 European Open at the K Club in Ireland, his game and his confidence took a major hit. Playing with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sandy Lyle, Stenson came to the K Club’s 13th hole and hit a massive slice that would not have been so alarming if he had not hit a massive hook on the same hole a day prior.

Stenson said he had no idea where the ball was going and was so spooked by his lack of form that he walked off the course and withdrew. “After nine holes, I told the guys they’d be better off without me,” Stenson recalled. “The balls were all over the place.”

In 2002, he managed just eight cuts in 22 events and fell to No. 621 in the world rankings. Yet, Stenson slowly made his way back among the game’s elite, winning in 2004, earning a spot on the European Ryder Cup team in 2006, joining the PGA Tour in 2007, and claiming his then-biggest victory at the 2009 Players Championship.

Stenson would endure another downturn soon after, eventually falling back to as low as No. 230. Much of his second slump was attributed to financial setbacks suffered in a Ponzi scheme from which Stenson was swindled out of more than $7 million. The scam’s mastermind, Allen Stanford, was later convicted of fraud and sentenced to 110 years in prison.

“After I won the Tour Championship and the FedExCup, I actually flew from Atlanta to my home in Orlando having collected more than $11 million,” Stenson said. “And when I was on the plane,

I worked out that I was flying over the federal prison in Florida where Stanford will likely be for the rest of his life. Yeah, there was satisfaction in that. But it was more thinking about all those people who lost a tremendous amount of money to him but weren’t fortunate enough to make a lot of it back.”

For Stenson, the road to his 2017 Wyndham Championship title has not been without the occasional pothole. But Sweden’s greatest golfer is experienced and mature enough to realize that life is full of ups and downs.

“Of course, I’ve been low and frustrated at times,” he said. “But I’m not giving up. I’m not a quitter. I’ll always bounce back.”

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Tournament Teamwork

by Casey Griffith

 Aug 07, 2018 at 2:34 PM

Dedicated volunteers are the secret to The Wyndham Championship's success.

There's no question that the weeks leading up to the Wyndham Championship bring “Tour fever” to Greensboro — a city that fully embraces all the fervor that comes with some 150 world-class golfers. Traffic signs go up, hotels and restaurants brim with fans, and even the local weather is projected on Sedgefield Country Club’s vibrant, velvety greens.

But behind the scenes, the gears that power the week-long festivities aren’t as visible. Far beyond club and event staffers, it takes an army of 1,600 local volunteers to make sure professionals and spectators alike enjoy the Wyndham, twice named the PGA’s most fan-friendly event. Since 2008, Bill and Donna Richardson have volunteered alongside fellow Sedgefield Country Club members to man the ninth hole gallery, undoubtedly one of the course’s busiest due to its location just behind the clubhouse.

With his tenure, Mr. Richardson now coordinates the volunteer effort for this area of the course. “We enjoy working with the people, and having the same folks back year after year to serve,” he says. “They’re so cooperative and willing to help, it makes the job easy.”

When you think of a tournament volunteer, the first image that pops into your mind is probably a tall, slender sign reading “Quiet.” That, and perhaps a guilty flashback if you happen to have been on the receiving end of a stern “I know you know better” glance when speaking too loudly while players are on the green. Lest we forget, these subtle enforcements preserve golf fans’ ability to be up-and-close with the players. After all, in what other sport can you get close enough to watch the muscles tense in your hero’s arms right before he sends a perfectly connected tee shot hurling down the fairway?

But there’s a lot more to being a volunteer than crowd control. Kellie Rhoney, the volunteer coordinator for the Wyndham Championship, has an intimate understanding of just how much they contribute. “Volunteers play a vital role in every aspect of the tournament, whether it’s preparation prior to the event, gallery control, tear-down after the tournament, or even operating ShotLink,” she says.

Yes, those tripods you see along the fairway are also staffed by volunteers and, thanks to recent tech advancements, shot distances are now measured with digital prowess. The ShotLink System uses lasers and 3D mapping software to calculate how far the ball travels and gives fans fast and accurate stats for each shot a golfer makes on each hole. This data is then electronically sent to scoreboards throughout the course to ensure fans don’t miss a minute, or an inch, of the action.

To operate the system, volunteers undergo a specific training regimen, and this skill then becomes their discipline moving forward. Formerly, shot distances were recorded by hand and manually populated to scoreboards, which took considerably more time.

With all the moving parts and know-how involved to seamlessly power such a large event, the value of these volunteer forces is immense. Rhoney eagerly shares her gratitude. “I wholeheartedly believe that volunteers are essential for the success of the Wyndham Championship. It would be nearly impossible to run the tournament without them. We are very appreciative of the dedication and hard work that our volunteers put forth, and I consider myself lucky to have such a great group who is determined to make the Wyndham Championship a great experience for all.”

So remember to give them a quick “thank you” while enjoying the tournament this year. Their passion for the sport is a big part of what keeps Greensboro a golfing town, and the Wyndham Championship right here at home.


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Palmer's Greensboro Legacy

by Mike Purkey

 Mar 21, 2018 at 4:21 PM

The King's Affinity for Greensboro

The first ACC golf tournament was staged in 1954 at Old Town Club and was won by Arnold Palmer, who had re-entered Wake Forest after a three year hitch in the Coast Guard. Palmer had withdrawn from school, despondent about the death of his close friend and Wake teammate Buddy Worsham.

Worsham was responsible for Palmer being at Wake Forest. Worsham was a prized recruit and before entering school asked athletic director Jim Weaver if he could bring along a friend. Weaver wanted to know if that friend could play golf and Worsham assured the AD that Palmer could, indeed, play.

With Palmer and Worsham as the anchors, Wake Forest won three Southern Conference championships. Palmer won the ACC individual title in 1948 and 1949 and was the NCAA individual winner in 1950.

On October 14, 1950, Worsham and teammate Gene Scheer went to the Wake Forest homecoming dance in Durham after Palmer and Jim Flick turned them down, going to a movie instead. That night, a one-car wreck killed Worsham and Scheer.

Palmer left Wake Forest after the 1954 ACC Championship without graduating, heading instead to a career on the PGA
Tour. When he started having success as a professional, he endowed the Buddy Worsham Scholarship at Wake Forest in 1963. Years later, Palmer endowed another scholarship in his own name and went on to endow six more scholarships
at Wake. But the Worsham Scholarship remains the most prestigious.

The Greater Greensboro Open tournament became important to Palmer. He played it 13 times, even coming to Greensboro during the years the tournament was played the week before the Masters, when most big-name players skipped the event to get ready for Augusta.

Palmer always said he had an affinity for Greensboro and the GGO, drawn to Sedgefield because of the memories of his old friend and teammate, Worsham. And as if playing in the event was not enough to boost the fortunes and galleries of the GGO, he once called in a big favor and got his friend Bob Hope to come to Greensboro and play in the pro-am.

In 1965, Palmer agreed to attend the first Champions Dinner. While flying to town, he encountered bad weather preventing his landing in Greensboro. He could land in Charlotte but would need a ride to Greensboro. Jim Melvin, Greensboro’s mayor at the time, convinced the Highway Patrol to pick up Palmer at the Charlotte airport and race him to Greensboro. And race they did: They made it to the dinner in an astounding 45 minutes.

Palmer never won the GGO, coming close in 1972 when he had a two-shot lead with three holes to play. A triple-bogey
coming in thwarted his chances. But that hole on his resume doesn’t diminish what Palmer meant to Greensboro and the tournament now known as the Wyndham Championship.

Last August, the Wyndham installed a plaque dedicated to Palmer on the Wall of Champions behind the ninth green at Sedgefield. With his grandson, Sam Saunders, in attendance, the plaque was dedicated.

It reads: “Widely considered the most important figure in golf and one of the most influential players in Wyndham Championship history, Arnold Palmer had five top five finishes in 13 appearances at Sedgefield. In 1963, Palmer established the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship at Wake Forest University in memory of his friend and teammate who died in a car accident while in school. Since that time, scholarship winners have been a consistent presence in the tournament field, always with great appreciation and admiration for Arnie.”

This plaque now serves as a permanent reminder of Palmer’s contributions. Now, there’s something tangible that will
remind people of his legacy every time they pass.

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Storied Past, Bright Future

by Mike Purkey

 Mar 13, 2018 at 4:11 PM

McConnell Golf's link to the ACC remains strong

Sedgefield Country Club has a rich and storied relationship with the Atlantic Coast Conference, providing the place where the conference was formed more than 60 years ago. McConnell Golf not only recognizes that history, but embraces it. Clubs under the McConnell umbrella continue to host men’s and women’s ACC golf championships, which makes them — and by extension all of McConnell Golf — part of the conference’s history, as well. The men’s championship has been hosted by Old North State Club and Musgrove Mill Golf Club, while the women’s championship has been held at The Reserve Golf Club and Sedgefield CC.

The ACC is Born
In 1923, Southern Real Estate acquired a tract of land southwest of Greensboro with the intention of building a self sufficient community. The 3,660 acres were originally owned by New York executive John Cobb, who turned it into a hunting preserve. He called it Sedgefield.

One of the amenities Southern Real Estate envisioned was a golf course. The great architect Donald Ross, who was well ensconced in Pinehurst, was summoned and agreed in 1925 to design two golf courses on the property.

The first course was called Valley Brook and it officially opened in the spring of 1926. The Great Depression prevented the construction of a second course, and Valley Brook is today known as Sedgefield Country Club.

But the history of Sedgefield includes more than just golf. On May 8, 1953, the birth of the Atlantic Coast Conference took place at the Sedgefield Inn, which years later would become the clubhouse for Sedgefield CC.

On that morning in May, seven members of the Southern Conference withdrew from the conference during the league’s spring meeting. That afternoon, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest agreed at the Sedgefield Inn to form another conference. Local newspapers asked their readers for ideas to name the conference. Suggestions included Dixie, Mid South, Mid Atlantic, East Coast, Seaboard, Colonial, Tobacco, Blue-Gray, Piedmont, Southern Seven, and the Shoreline. But it was Eddie Cameron, Duke’s athletic director, who suggested the name Atlantic Coast Conference, and it passed unanimously.

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Spinning Wheels

by Meredith Donahue

 Mar 07, 2018 at 12:07 AM

Improve your Health with Indoor Cycling

As Spring blooms, fitness and good health become a priority for many. One of the increasingly popular trends in fitness is cycling, and McConnell Golf offers a variety of options for spinning your wheels, whether it’s out on the open roads or in a spin class at your club.

Spin classes offer a riding experience similar to an outdoor ride, but on an indoor bike. Sedgefield Country Club offers spin classes twice a week, taking riders on a journey with flat stretches, sprint intervals, jumps, and seated and standing climbs.

Sherri Tallant heads up the spin program at Sedgefield. She’s been a certified spin instructor since 1999, and one of her favorite benefits about the exercise program is that it’s both a mental and physical experience.

“Spin allows the rider to strive for their mental and physical best,” she says. “One of the unique things about spin class is that the rider controls the amount of resistance they use based on their fitness level. We have members in their thirties in the same class with our oldest student at age 79! Everyone gets a great workout in the same ride.”

The scenery isn’t bad either — during the warmer months, spin classes are often held on the patio overlooking the club’s pool.

Carolyn Gorga, Sedgefield member and frequent spin class attendee, has found that the class provides truly personal rewards and challenges.

“My favorite thing about the class is the friendships I’ve made with members who I might never have known,” says Gorga. “This is the type of class that anyone can do — you challenge yourself.”

While she’s not yet an avid golfer, Gorga believes her spin class regimen has greatly improved her aerobic health and core strength, which will certainly improve her golf game.

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Sedgefield, Then And Now

by John Maginnes

 Dec 19, 2017 at 4:16 PM

The Stately Clubhouse at Sedgefield Country Club stands as a reminder of its momentous history. The hallways feature photos of golf legends from Wyndham Championships long ago. The first Wyndham Championship was played back in 1938 at Sedgefield and Starmount across town. These two courses would share hosting duties until 1960, when Sam Snead offended Starmount’s owner and was banned from the property. Sedgefield hosted the annual event from 1960 until 1976, and the tournament returned home from Forest Oaks to Sedgefield in 2008, where it continues to thrive.

This return to Sedgefield has conjured both the history and memories from some of the games’ best. World Golf Hall of Fame member Curtis Strange recalls coming to the tournament in the early ‘70s while playing at Wake Forest.

“We would come over at least one day and set up on the 16th tee [current- ly No. 7] and sit right behind the tee so we could get a look at all the players’ alignment and watch their swings,” recalls Strange. “Of course, we drank a few beers too, but it was incredible.” Strange goes on to say that one of the most valuable lessons he learned back then came from standing on that tee at Sedgefield. “It became pretty obvious that none of the players aimed right of the target. That was an eye opener. And they are hitting these long irons or fairway woods and they are all aimed to the left.”

Strange played the tournament at Sedgefield once or twice, but his career spanned the Forest Oaks era. “I don’t really remember much about playing in the tournament at Sedge- field other than loving the golf course, a great old course. But I remember going as a college player and soaking it all in. Back then, Sam Snead was still playing, so you had to go watch him play a few holes. And of course, Arnold came to town.”

The landscape of professional golf has changed dramatically since that golden era, but the classic courses, like Sedgefield, remain in high regard. They are favorites among today’s best, just as they were decades ago. Since the Wyndham returned to Sedgefield in 2008, four of the ten winners are major champions, including the defending champion Henrik Stenson.

Stenson’s name is just the latest to be added to the wall of champions that stands at the foot of the clubhouse behind the ninth green. It is fitting that the first name on the list is eight-time champion Sam Snead, whose love affair with Greensboro started at the inaugural event in 1938. Next summer, the Wyndham Championship will enter its eighth decade with one of the richest histories on the PGA TOUR. Thanks to Wyndham and Sedgefield, the future of the annual stop is secured — but it’s the rich history that sets the tournament apart.

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